16 Oct The phone call that every triathlete’s partner dreads.
When you’re married to a triathlete who spends a lot of time training on our Samoa roads, then you live with the constant dread of getting ‘that’ phone call. I got it at 5.30am early one Friday morning. “Can you come get me?” he asked. At first I thought maybe he’d had a flat tire? Or just got tired and wanted a ride home? But then I realised it was something else. He was slurring his words, kept repeating himself and he didn’t know where exactly he was.
“I can see the fire station,” he kept saying to me. “Can you come find me? I can see the fire station.”
“What’s wrong? What happened?” I asked. But his reply was simply a track on repeat. “I don’t know. Can you come get me? I can see the fire station…”
We went looking and found him sitting on the sidewalk across the road from the fire station. His helmet was cracked, the bike’s handle bars were bent, he had bruises and was bleeding from various abrasions along one side of his body. The worst looking injury was to the side of his head where a big bruise and lump was already swelling. But the frightening part for us, was his obvious disorientation. He asked Big Son, with surprise, “Hey, what are you doing here? Where did you come from? Whose car is that? Where did you get it from?” He couldn’t remember calling me. And all the way to the hospital, he kept asking, “Where did you find me? Who told you? How did you know? Where’s my bike? Where’s my phone?”
Confession – The #BadWife in me REALLY wanted to throw his bike on the road and run over it several times. Or at least, chuck it in the bushes. But his son was with us and so I couldn’t very well take advantage of his head injury, get rid of the killer bike and then later, claim that OHEMGEE SOMEBODY MUST HAVE STOLEN IT AFTER YOU CRASHED?! PEOPLE ARE TRASH!! DAMN THOSE BIKE STEALERS TO HELL!! Big Son would have been a witness and an unwilling accessory to the crime.
At the hospital, he was diagnosed with a concussion and admitted for observation. He had xrays done but the CT scanner wasn’t working so they couldn’t check for a brain bleed. For the next few hours, he was a broken record of confusion asking, “”Where did you find me? How did you know? Where’s my bike? Where’s my phone?”
The first hint of his total awareness about his situation, was actually the scariest moment for me. That afternoon, he sat up and grabbed at my hand, and asked, with fear in his eyes, “Will you and the kids be okay?”
“What do you mean?” I downplayed. “Of course we’ll be okay. And so will you. You’re going to be fine and we’ll go home soon.”
But he shook his head. “No. If this doesn’t go well for me. Will you be alright? And the kids? Will you all be okay? Have I done enough?”
And that is when I broke. With tears, I reassured him, that yes, if something happened to him, me and the children would be alright. “You’ve worked very hard to make a good life for us. We have everything we need. Our big children are grown and finished University. We’ve done a good job raising them. Don’t you worry about us. We will be alright.”
Only then did he lie back and rest. Only then did he close his eyes and doze into a restless sleep, his fears for his family soothed.
It’s two weeks later now. He still cant remember what happened to him. He still has a missing 3hour period from that day. He can’t remember calling me. Or telling the nurse that ‘of course I’m fine and I should go home now!’. He can’t remember having an xray. Or family visiting him that early morning. He’s been to the site of the crash and found pieces of his helmet beside a massive boulder at the side of the road. But still no memories of how he ended up there.
He’s been to New Zealand and had blood tests, cardiac tests and a (very expensive) CT scan. Thank you and much love to all those family and friends who visited, and who helped us in an anxious time. As soon as he got the all-clear, he went and mowed the lawn at our house in Auckland. He wanted to climb up a ladder and trim the big tree by our roof too, but I got musu #BossyWife and wouldn’t let him.
The day after we got the CT scan results, the all-clear, I was angry. Musu. Snapping and grouchy. Angry at everyone and everything for no apparent reason. It wasn’t until late that night when a friend asked me, “So Darren is ok. But what about you? What are you feeling?” That then it hit me. Now that the danger had passed, I was angry at him. For riding bikes at 100k an hour on dark dangerous roads. For crashing. For nearly dying. For all the fear, anxiety and panic “he’s put me through dammit!” I was like that meme about a Samoan mum who AFTER she makes sure her child is ok after falling out of a tree – THEN she gets her shoe and fasi’s him because she’s so mad that he made her worry! (Yes, its all about me!)
We’re back in Samoa and he’s at work. He’s swimming and running. But not biking on the road. Not yet. I’ve asked him please to wait till the 6 week mark. To only bike when he has friends to bike with. To bike inside on the stationary bike in the meantime. I’m worried about him climbing up high to rig steel on their current construction project. Every morning I have Bella remind him – “Hey Dad, take it easy today. The doctor said you have a concussion and you might get dizzy spells.” She likes to add, “You nearly died, remember!” And then her Dad rolls his eyes at her, and goes out to do all the things he usually does.
Something happens when your other half has a brush with death. When you spend a few days worrying about what’s happening inside their brain. Is there a bleed? Is he going to start vomiting and then collapse? Just when you get complacent and think everything’s alright, is he going to slip away one minute when you’re not watching him? When you lie awake at night, listening to them breathe, reaching out to touch their shoulder, to reassure yourself that yes, he’s here. Yes, he’s okay.
You realise how meaningless so many things are. Even the fact that there’s a pack of shitty online abusers that write rubbish about you – is so very trivial. None of that matters. What matters are the people we love. The time we spend with them. The dreams we dream together. The #badStuff we have overcome. The struggles we endure. The road we walk alongside one another, sometimes needing the other to carry us as we lean on them, sometimes stepping up to be the one who will be the strength for the other.
You are reminded that every day could be the last you have together. You trace the line of their elbow, place the palm of your hand on their back, close your eyes and memorise the warm feel of their skin against yours. You catch yourself staring when they talk on the phone, when they drive the car, when they watch TV. You want to see, hear, feel and remember everything. You look through old photographs, hungry for all the pictures that will be the only thing you have, if…when they crash their bike and don’t remember to call for help, don’t have their helmet on properly, don’t hit that rock just right so that their brain survives.
You realise there aren’t many photos of you together, because you’re always fretting about being too fat. And the photos you haven’t deleted, are all the posed bestest angle of you, with your fake smile that doesn’t make your face all scrunchy squished with its double triple chins. You want to have ALL the pictures, ALL the moments, ALL the memories and making sure the camera was angled right or your face was turned the optimal way doesn’t seem so important. You want all the laughter and joy and smiles and joking moments. Screw the right angles and lighting. So what if theres double triple chins! Embrace the joy. Let the love show.
Be thankful for helmets and cell phones.
Be thankful you have another day. Live, laugh, learn and love fiercely in every minute of it.